Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Top 10

I've been seeing top ten lists popping up everywhere, so I finally thought why the hell not: here's my own. There are a lot of good films I've managed to miss though - A Serious Man, The Hurt Locker, Moon to name but three (I know, it's a travesty) - but I'm fairly sure much of this list would remain the same. The list has a vague order to it, but some films could probably easily switch positions!

Without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2009. Feel free to agree/disagree/laugh at my taste ;)

1. La Horde (Yannick Dahan)

This French action-horror is fist-in-the-air, cheer-for-the-heroes, balls-to-the-wall brilliance. Not remotely original or clever, the film is full of interesting characters (although many are introduced with an utterly pointless prelude) and directed with such gusto that it's impossible not to love it.

2. Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

Up. What on earth can I say about Up that hasn't been said already? While Wall-E remains my favourite Pixar movie (and is, pretty much, my favourite film ever), Up is an exquisitely made film which treats children as future grown-ups and grown-ups as eternal children. Just...gorgeous.

3. Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie)

Rip-roaring good fun, Sherlock Holmes is a perfect event movie: great fun, great excitement, great set-pieces, great dialogue, great music...the smile that was plastered on my face for most of the movie was still there hours later. And I've not even mentioned the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law...

4. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)

A film I reviewed earlier in the year, District 9 proves that sci-fi can still be interesting, while providing silly guns and tentacled aliens. As exciting on a third viewing as it was on the first, District 9 is a true triumph.

5. Mesrine, parts 1 and 2 (Jean-Francois Richet)

This two-parter is an exercise in thrills, with an absolutely electric lead performance by Cassel. While the supporting cast - including Cecile de France, Samuel le Bihan and the wonderful Mathieu Amalric - all put in great performances and the direction keeps the action alive, Cassel really steals the show.

6. Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe)

I'm still not even sure if Enter the Void can be called a 'good' film, but my god, it's an experience. That it's still not been picked up for distribution is baffling, as it's a visual and aural feast. Noe does not disappoint in continuing to challenge his audience.

7. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)

The utterly graphic Antichrist might not be as shocking as some people have made out (though shocking it is), it's a truly dark film that explores grief and insanity like no other. And thank goodness for the courage of an actress like Charlotte Gainsbourg.

8. Avatar (James Cameron)

The story might be something we've heard before, and its morals might be didactic, but there is no fault to Avatar's visuals. There's not an instant in the film where the Na'vi and their world don't convince as being completely and utterly real.

9. Thirst (Park Chan-wook)

A darkly funny twist on the vampire tale, Chan-wook breathes life into the poor, abused blood-suckers. I'm looking forward to the DVD release, because a double-bill with Let the Right One In would be divine!

10. Orphan (Jaume Collet-Serra)

Orphan may not have gained massive critical acclaim, but it's one the films that I most enjoyed this year. It's accessible, but brave, mainstream horror with an absolutely stellar performance from young Isabelle Fuhrman as the titular orphan, Esther, who deserves to go down in the annals of great creepy kids.

Honourable mentions go to: Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi), Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn), St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson) and Dorian Gray (Oliver Parker). Stop sniggering at the back, I really mean those last two!

Happy new year everyone - here's hoping 2010's a good year for film!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Women and the Box Office

In response to:

Oh, Hollywood. Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood. And oh, popular reporting on Hollywood. Do you really think that by providing an infinite loop of this kind of reporting that the big bad male studio execs you refer to will ever change? No, they won’t.

New Moon, The Blind Side, The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, Mamma Mia, Julie and Julia, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth. I’m female, and I’ve seen three of these films – Mamma Mia on DVD (because I was literally forced to, by my parents), New Moon because it’s stupidly entertaining and The Ugly Truth because I mistakenly thought that Gerard Butler would make up for the shitty script.

"There's no difference in movie-going by gender; women are just as likely to go to the movies as men," the director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, Martha Lauzen, is quoted as saying. Well, good for her. The next paragraph along, however, and we get this gem: “If you give women movies reflecting their experience and interests, Lauzen says, they will go -- even on opening weekend.” Oh my gosh, go to the cinema on an opening weekend?! But I always wait a few weeks so the horrible boy smell has gone?! Puh-lease – a film doesn’t have to reflect my experience nor my interests for me to go see it, opening weekend or not. The article goes on to comment that “the movie industry always seems surprised to find out that women go to the movies” – this is true, but I think there’s a confusion here too, between films with lots of women in them, and cinemas with lots of women in them.

Another quote by Lauzen: "Women are a dramatically underserved segment of the moviegoing population, and if the industry would produce films that are not, by the way, just about shoes and clothes, but really had multidimensional female characters doing interesting things, women will go to see these movies in droves." True, and that’s all well and good, but this same article has just listed New Moon, Sex and the City and The Ugly Truth amongst recent successes – multidimensional and interesting they are not. A quote from a different commentator: "studios are run by stubborn men, so it'll take more than this to make substantial changes." While I’ve no doubt that this is true, maybe if women (and men!) stopped showing up in droves to watch drivel like The Ugly Truth (guilty, as charged, although that was a rare slip-up), then said stubborn men would stop hiring hacks (male and female) to make backward rom-coms and might instead hire more Kathryn Bigelows and Lexi Alexanders. Of course, if the same stubborn men stopped peppering their ‘man films’ (god, what a horrible turn of phrase) with semi-naked ‘actresses’, they might find more female bums on seats for those films too.

But, most of all, guess what, CNN? A hell of a lot of women go watch horror movies, too, and I’ll bet the same's true for other sorts of films. Recently an internet radio show host expressed her absolute surprise (nay, disbelief) that at least half of horror audiences are women. I’m going to go take a guess as to why that’s a surprise – because outlets like CNN don’t talk about it. They definitely do talk about The Blind Side and The Ugly Truth, though. Maybe if we celebrated and talked about women going to watch all sorts of films, then those big bad Hollywood men would think about changing their ways too.